Outspoken High Court Judge Frank Seepersad has strongly criticised the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC) over its refusal to disclose certain information related to the recent promotions to the Court of Appeal.
Seepersad made the comments in a letter sent to acting Director of Public Administration Debra Parkinson yesterday morning.
Seepersad’s main cause of concern was the JLSC’s decision to withhold information on the individual scores awarded by the four members, who interviewed candidates last year. Seepersad suggested that the information was vital in determining whether he had been subjected to unfair treatment victimisation.
While the JLSC disclosed the cumulative score of each candidate without naming them, it refused to release the individual scores of each interviewer as it claimed it was personal information that was exempt from disclosure.
“An objective review of my performance for the past eight years would reveal that I have one of the highest disposal rates, have few appeals, every decision which has gone to the Board of the Privy Council has been upheld, I have no outstanding judgements and litigants can get a trial, in my court, within a three-month window,” Seepersad said.
He noted that from the information that was disclosed by the JLSC, he was awarded 133 out of 184 for professional competence, 13 out of 32 for commitment to professional development, 32 out of 60 for overall suitability, and 17.5 out of 20 for the quality of his written judgements, that were submitted as part of the recruitment process.
Seepersad also took issue with the fact that the JLSC failed to release details on the criteria the judges were assessed on was applied during the interviews. He suggested that this would have affected how the members judged candidates and how candidates prepared for their assessments.
He said that clear directives on the issue would have resulted in all four members selecting consistent scores.
“If, however, under these heads of assessment, a candidate got high scores from certain members but low scores from others, such an occurrence could reveal the existence of bias and such a circumstance should attract strict sanction and catalyse a complete overhaul of the commission,” Seepersad said.
However, Seepersad accepted that the identity of the members was immaterial to his concerns over the fairness and legitimacy of the process.
He claimed that the situation has led him to lose all trust and confidence he had in the processes adopted by the JLSC.
“As outlined the body has been the subject of serious litigation and its actions have eroded the public’s trust and confidence in the Judiciary. It is with a sense of shame that I noted in 2019, the Judiciary ranked alarmingly low in a survey among public institutions with respect to public trust and confidence,” Seepersad said, as he suggested that the JLSC is operating with “an air of unaccountability.”
Despite his concerns, Seepersad stated that he was still being to defend the integrity of the Judiciary.
Seepersad sought to give the JLSC an opportunity to provide the information with the names of the members redacted before a lawsuit threatened by his lawyer Anand Beharrylal, QC, earlier this week.
Seepersad, who was among 20 High Court Judges that participated in the promotions exercise. Eight judges were selected to go forward to the psychometric testing phase.
Justices Mira Dean-Armorer and Gillian Lucky were first elevated on January 27, while Justices Malcolm Holdip, Vasheist Kokaram, and Maria Wilson were elevated in early March